We lived in our new house for less than a month when Grandma’s old painting started to scream. I was so startled I felt ten years shave themselves off my life. I was listening to a news channel droning on about another missing persons case… that made twelve this month. The noise jolted me out of bed and onto the floor. By the time I found my way out from cowering under my bed, the painting was a bit less vocal.

“Well, get out here, boy! Daylight’s a-wasting.”

This did not inspire an abundance of confidence, and I dove back under my bed. To my great misfortune, I misjudged things and stubbed my toe, so I had to contend with trying not to scream whilst trying to hide away and pretend I did not exist.

“Hiding under your bed won’t help you, you little snot. Get your carcass out here.”

I did not move for quite a long time. I had just about convinced myself I was imagining things when I heard the painting speak again.

“Charles, so help me, if I have to come get you I’ll tan your hide something fierce.”

I thanked every deity I knew of that my wife was out of the house this weekend. I heard the voice in the den sigh and fall silent. It took almost as long again to gather my courage and drag myself out from under my bed once more. This time there was nothing from the other end of the house, so I let loose a nervous laugh and told myself I was being an idiot.

“Chuck, old boy, you really need to lie off the sauce.”

Easier said than done. I loved tequila like most people liked to breathe. I crept toward the den on unsteady feet, starting at the slightest noise. I almost gave up the ghost when Tippy, my tuxedo cat, rubbed up against my leg.

“Tippy! Shh!” I admonished her. She looked at me like I was an idiot… she had said nothing.

“Cats,” I muttered. Tippy did not deign to dignify me with a response. She rubbed against my leg once more and sauntered off to who-knows-where. I crept closer to the den once more, hoping against hope I’d left the TV on. No such luck, as it turned out. The TV was black as death as I looked at it in dismay.

“About time you dragged your lazy bones out here.” Grandma’s voice split my thoughts again.

“AHHHHHH!”

“Quit your bellyaching, Charles John Tillum!”

My instinct to obey my grandmother was so ingrained I snapped my mouth shut without thinking. Grandma smirked at me from inside her frame.

“Grammy, how is this possible?” 

“Oh come off it, idiot boy!” “But Grammy…”

“Can it, Charles, or you’ll have Achlys to answer to.”

“Who?”

“I don’t like your tone! Now make yourself useful and get over here where I can see you properly.”

“Um… Grammy…”

“If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you, now get to it!”

I moved toward the painting for a moment, before setting my jaw and turning toward the door. A thunderclap shook the walls of the house, but I decided I could brave a storm instead of whatever was brewing inside. I was almost to the door when Grandma started screaming again. I grabbed hold of the doorknob but jerked my hand away as I felt my hand burn. 

“Ahhhhh!” I yelled as my flesh sizzled. I tore my shirt off and wrapped it around my hand, then took hold of the knob again. I had it three-quarters turned when I felt a force drag me back toward the living room. I held on to the knob until it was torn off the door and I moved backward, screaming in terror. 

“I SAID GET OVER HERE!”

I curled up into the fetal position and rocked back and forth with my eyes closed for a moment, but then shot up and had every plan to get back under my bed. Alas, it was not to be. No sooner than I took my first step than I felt a hand press against my chest and push me back.

I snapped my eyes open and found myself face-face-face with someone covered in a black cloak and a face mottled with bruises. She grinned so wide I almost screamed again. No one human could grin that widely.

“Tsk tsk.”

“No! No no no no nononononononononono!” I muttered, my words running together in my fear.  The figure before me mocked me, repeating my words in a high-pitched voice. 

“This isn’t happening! This isn’t happening! This isn’t happening! You’re not real. You’re a bit of undigested meat or something!”

The laugh I got in response to that almost froze my blood. “My, but you are a feisty one.” The cloaked figure told me. All the while, Grandma’s old painting continued to scream. I tried to duck past the figure and get away from the den, but a hand stronger than any I had ever known grabbed me and threw me against the wall. I felt a wet spot form behind my head, and the world went black.

When I woke up, things were quieter. I was back in my bedroom, but it felt wrong, somehow. The air was hot and thick, and the door refused to open when I tried it. I strained my ears and could hear voices in the den… one belonged to the painting, and the other to the cloaked figure.

“You did well, Achlys. We are pleased.”

There was no response, save for a satisfied grunt.

“Soon, friends. Soon.”

“Wh-what?” I called out, but no one answered. I was not expecting one, but that did nothing for the terror twisting my insides. I yanked on the door several more times, but I might as well have been trying to pull the Statue of Liberty for all the result I got from my efforts. I had to stop when my elbow popped hard enough to send a shot of pain through my entire arm. A moment later, the door opened on its own. I shot out into the hallway, but almost tripped over my own feet when the door slammed shut again. I could no longer hear the voices, so I tiptoed toward the living room and poked my head around the corner. Achlys and Grammy were waiting for me, but Grammy’s face was twisted into an expression so horrible I almost lost my lunch. 

“Awake again, then? Good.”

“Wh-why?” I asked. I tried to move backward, but either my fear or some unholy force kept me from moving my legs.

“It’s almost time.”

“Time for what?” The painting did not answer. Instead, I heard the news report droning away again, but only in my mind. Before I could focus too much on it, a vortex of some sort sprang into being at the far end of the den, and seemed to open like a mouth, though I could not see teeth. I felt myself draw toward it, but my feet were not moving. The carpet burned my feet as I moved, and Grammy let loose a horrible laugh.

“Soon, Charles.”

“What’s soon?”

“Lunch.”

“But I’m not hungry!” 

“Oh, that’s quite all right. We don’t mind at all.”

I forced my unresponsive limbs to do my bidding for a moment, but only long enough to turn around. A moment later, I was being dragged backward toward the vortex again as I twisted and screamed in terror.

“Why is this happening?”

Grammy’s voice changed again, this time both mocking and horrible. “You should have eaten your green vegetables as a youngin.”

“But I did! I ate my green vegetables!”

My struggles and cries did nothing as I felt my body move through the vortex, and then the stinging pierce of hundreds of small teeth. The pain got worse and worse, but for some reason I did not pass out. I screamed in terror and agony as the teeth continued to move upward along my legs and began to devour my torso.

Another missing person case today, making twelve in total in the last three weeks. We advise residents to lock your doors and stay inside.

Oh. I got it now. Before I could consider the memory anymore, I felt the teeth lock onto my neck. The last thing I saw was Grammy’s scowling face.

A jaunt into the horror genre. Let me know what you think!

-Rowan